Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Review: Ultraviolet by RJ Anderson

September 1, 2011

"Once upon a time there was a girl who was special. This is not her story. Unless you count the part where I killed her."

Sixteen-year-old Alison wakes up in a mental institution. As she pieces her memory back together, she realizes she's confessed to murdering Tori Beaugrand, the most perfect girl at school. But the case is a mystery. Tori's body has not been found, and Alison can't explain what happened. One minute she was fighting with Tori. The next moment Tori disintegrated--into nothing.

But that's impossible. No one is capable of making someone vanish. Right? Alison must be losing her mind--like her mother always feared she would.

For years Alison has tried to keep her weird sensory abilities a secret. No one ever understood--until a mysterious visiting scientist takes an interest in Alison's case. Suddenly, Alison discovers that the world is wrong about her--and that she's capable of far more than anyone else would believe.

I was telling someone the other day I had this brilliant idea for a YA novel about a girl who has synesthesia and how this abilitiy tied into supernatural stuff...

And then I found out that book already exists and it's called Ultraviolet.
So kudos, RJ Anderson, for having the idea 1) first and 2) better than I did! I really had no idea what I'd do with the synesthesia, but Anderson took it in a really cool direction. I'm not sure why I haven't seen more about this book, given that it's such a cool departure from a lot of YA sci-fi stuff.

You think you've read every twist on "teenage girls who are special" in the genre, but then there's Allison, seventeen years old and in a mental institution after having a breakdown and maybe killing a classmate. The truth of what happened to Tori, Allison's role in her disappearance, and the real extent of Allison's abilities are all revealed slowly over the course of the book. Backstory is added in tiny, well-measured drops and I appreciated that. It held my interest and kept me guessing.

And the writing...oh, my, the delicious adjectives. You can get away with such luciously descriptive writing when your narrator is a synesthete. If any other teenage girl described things like Allison does, you'd probably roll your eyes. But given the peculiar and intense way she experiences the sensory input makes it belieavable. And beautiful.

Ultraviolet is an unusually character driven book. Everyone in the story, even the minor characters, are well-rounded and have their own issues to deal with. No one is as simple as they first appear.

As for the romance: I've seen some reviewers note that the relationship between Faraday and Allison made them uncomfortable because of their age difference. Full disclosure: me too! And then my internal hypocrite alert when *ding!* and I remembered this is the same age gap between me and my husband, and we met when I was sixteen.  But from the perspective of a 31 year old woman, I still found myself thinking, "Heads up, Ally...There's something off about this whole deal." :)  It's somewhat explained later on how he's not *technically* that much older than her, but it would give away a major plot point for me to explain so....sshhh.

Content: It's a really clean book, with a couple of kissing scenes, one of which was against a character's will. I thought that was handled well though. There wasn't any cursing that I can recall and minimal violence.

The pacing of the book is a wee bit slower than I'm used to. I listened on audiobook, and I found myself on occasion wishing the action would pick up and that the characters would get a change of setting. When they actually do leave the facility, the change of setting is a MAJOR one!

The sequel, Quicksilver, is already out and I'm adding it to my TBR pile. Ultraviolet gives the reader closure at the end, but at the same time a big opening is left for the next book and I'd like to see where the series goes.

ETA: Ok, Quicksilver is a companion novel, not a sequel. It's from the POV of Tori, not Allison. Just wanted to clear that up.

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